someone standing telling other people about skin cancer

Skin Cancer: Community Problem, Community Fix

A few years ago, I loaded up the car and drove to Albany, New York, our state capital. Along with a contingent of other skin cancer advocates, I lobbied for a bill that would limit the use of tanning salons for minors. The bill passed in a modified form and even though we didn't get everything that we wanted, it was a victory and moved the mark in the right direction. I felt like I had done my civic duty and I slept well that night.

Will changing laws change skin cancer?

But, what I had really accomplished? In the bigger picture, I was not sure. Legislating negative behaviors has rarely had a tremendous effect on society in any measure. When I think about great movements of the past like Women's Suffrage and the Civil Rights, it was not the law that had really changed things, rather it was a change in attitude that has led to a change in behaviors. Enacting new legislation helps and often starts things, but a change in the heart is necessary.

Skin cancer requires community and patient advocacy

I believe this to be true with regard to changing perspectives and behaviors with regard to skin protection. As the melanoma "epidemic" gains steam, I have begun to understand that this is a community problem that requires a community solution. Of course, our online community is a significant part of this solution. I love and what it does for people who otherwise would not be reached. But, what about community solutions other than the online variety?

Advocacy in the form of sun kits

I do believe now that in order to whip skin cancer, we need a community-based, grassroots approach, like the one I found in Kissimmee, Florida. The Boys & Girls Club of Kissimmee has been distributing "Sun Kits" to hundreds of students in Osceola County. Sunscreen, lip balm, and sunglasses are packed into small educational "kits" and passed out along with a link to a skin cancer awareness website.

Young people leading community advocacy

This is exactly the type of thing to which I am referring. This is not about headlines and money, but about awareness and precaution. This is about Generation Z answering the call to protect their own. Our youngest citizens are often the most active advocates for causes that affect them and for those they love. This is a great example for all of us to follow.

Patient advocacy on a larger scale

Whether it be churches or civic groups, block clubs, schools, unions, sports organizations or wherever people gather, the skin cancer battle must be fought on all fronts. As I sat in major league baseball game the other day, I had an idea. Why not distribute sunscreen to everyone in attendance. Why not put the team logo on it and really make a statement? Why not protect those who dutifully pay for tickets, parking, ball caps, and hot dogs? Think about the impact of protecting 40,000 folks rather than having them roast in direct sunlight for hours.

Banding together for community advocacy

As people find themselves on the diagnosis and treatment side of the problem, why not spend more time and energy seeking creative community-based solutions that will make skin cancer a thing of the past? When groups of people band together for common good there is a tipping point at which change comes more easily. Let's beat this together.

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